Many fans enjoy seeing their favorite athletes in the bright lights and on the big stages. It's easy to be inspired by their greatness, but almost everyone will tell you that greatness is achieved through work done when no one is looking. Venus Williams is a great example of this statement.
Venus Williams has won seven tennis majors, Olympic gold medals and 49 professional tournaments in her career and was the number one tennis player in the world. That's how the eyes of fans and cameras have been on her since her teenage days. However, she credits something that takes place outside of court — resting.
"Sleep is the first line of defense for the immune system," she said. "If you don't sleep, your immune system can become weakened, which can lead to all sorts of other health problems. Therefore, it is extremely important to take your sleep seriously.”
When she and her sister Serena traveled, they wouldn't choose between sleeping and exercising. They did both, but there was an order in which they were ranked.
"When I travel overseas, I usually land in, say, Europe in the morning. We land in the morning and I'm going to get two hours of sleep," Williams said. "I'll set my alarm and when I wake up we'll go to the square for about an hour."
Williams said they might not be the most energetic of sessions, but they are still productive. She would then go to a gym for a light workout. This isn't just something she recently learned, either. This was a routine she had followed throughout her career.
“I remember our first trip abroad when we were kids. We missed practice because we couldn't wake up. That was when we were beginners," she said. "Since that time we have established our own routine that works for us so that we can prepare in the best possible way."
Williams said she regularly took naps before games, regardless of where the tournament was being held. She advocates that all athletes practice this, whether they are amateurs or on the world stage.
“It helps me build my energy stores for the tournament. Well, I actually feel more rested, if you can believe it, than if I were at home. Maybe I should just play every week to make my life easier," Williams joked.
Being rested was vital to the Williams sisters' success during their rise in tennis, as they trained and practiced four to five hours a day. Venus said it could take up to eight hours at the apex. This time was shortened considerably when Venus entered her 20s. While two to three hours a day was still quite a lot, she felt the reduction helped her in the long run.
"I think that was a key to my longevity," she explained. She was also honest with mistakes, such as being too ambitious at times. While she was a big fan of naps, she wasn't that keen on full days off.
Although she focused on getting a good night's sleep, rest days were a foreign word to her until much later.
"I think I was about 35 when I first learned the concept of rest days. I'm just not the kind of person who can just rest. But I started taking Saturday and Sunday off and practicing Monday through Friday, or some variation, and I noticed how much stronger I came back. It was a strong lesson and now I don't feel bad about taking rest days."
While Venus appreciates Williams' structure, the real world doesn't always cooperate. As she travels for her sport, business and other commitments such as promoting the film based on her family, she does her best to make the time when the opportunity arises.
"It may be a random Wednesday or Sunday," she shared. She suggests other athletes and fitness enthusiasts find a way to take this time off as well, as this grace could be beneficial in the long run.
“You should absolutely prioritize the rest, not just for fitness but for life in general. It's definitely important.”
t only does Williams consider time when it comes to recovery and rest, but she also tailors her diet accordingly. Intermittent fasting has become a hotly debated topic in recent years. Williams found that following such a plan has helped her maximize her recovery, allowing her to perform at her best on and off the pitch.
"I fast for 12 to 16 hours every day, occasionally longer, but not often," she revealed. "I like to end the day with a protein shake, a bread that I like, and a gut drink that I need to heal my gut. It keeps it in optimal shape. I mix it with cranberries and a pomegranate and enjoy. I finish it all off with a probiotic.”
This actually serves two purposes for the five-time Wimbledon champion. t only does it help her sleep and recover, but it also helps her preserve her hard-earned muscles. She trains at least five times a day to maintain her shape and strength.
"I can't lose my muscles," she stated emphatically. "I'm an ectomorph, skinny and tall, lanky, and that's what my body wants to be. I can't let go of that muscle.”
Like her workout, Venus Williams has a nightly routine where she listens to music to help her sleep. While her routine isn't for everyone, she believes that having a routine of your own can be a factor in maximizing rest and recovery.
"After a few nights of consistency, I feel like it can build your energy," Williams explained. "It can help you get up earlier and perform better."
She also feels that what you sleep on also matters. That's why she teamed up with GhostBed to create the Legend mattress. The medium firmness mattress has a mineral-enriched gel and three levels of cooling. Williams said this bed was designed with the goal of maximizing recovery so the person sleeping on it can reach their full potential the next day.
“This mattress is all about rest, which is vital to me. Whether it's life or activities, we all have yet to recover. This is a great way to unwind from a long and tiring day. I would have liked to have had this type of technology ten years ago.”
At the end of the day, Williams preaches that recovery is directly related to overall health, and she hopes more people will adopt a methodical strategy now and in the future.
"If they're not taking recovery seriously, they're not taking their overall health seriously."
For more information on the Venus Williams Collection, visit Ghostbed.com Follow Venus @venuswilliams.